Google Analytics – The Basics

New to Google Analytics? Here’s a top-level overview of the standard reporting. Don’t let the jargon prevent you from understanding user behaviour!

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I recently was asked to write a ‘CRO for beginners’ -type article and while I enjoyed doing so, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that something was missing. One of the main tools I’d rely on to gain an understanding of a website – and its users – would be good ol’ Google Analytics. While there wasn’t scope to cover it in the afore mentioned CRO article, I thought it’d be cool to do so here.

Super Simple Standard Reports

After you login to your profile, you’ll want to take some time to understand the top level data that’s available. Those tabs down the left-hand-side are your first port of call.

Google Analytics Bascics - Left Hand Nav - Browser Media

The Overview offers exactly that. It defaults to ‘sessions’ and gives an idea of the number of visits to your site over a given time period, as well as some engagement metrics such as the average duration of a session and the average bounce rate. Active Users and Cohort Analysis are the new kids on the block and offer insight into engagement and behaviour for active users and groups (or cohorts) respectively. Demographics, Interests, Geo and Behaviour categorises your audience into age, gender, their interests, their location and whether or not they’ve been to your site before.

I like the Technology and Mobile tabs as it helps me understand how a website is being used from a technical perspective. Dip into Browser & IOS under Technology and find out which browsers people are using to visit your website. If visitors using a particular browser show low engagement, it could be that there’s an aspect of your website that doesn’t work in Internet Explorer that particular browser.

Google Analytics Bascics - Technology Tab - Browser Media

Mobile search is growing and so understanding which devices your visitors use means you can adapt design now and in the future to allow for varying screen sizes.

Custom, Benchmarking and Users Flow are probably a little beyond the ‘basics’ of Google Analytics, but will help you segment your audience meaningfully by behaviour, compare your site’s performance against industry-relevant competitors, or view the path(s) taken through your website.


Again, the first tab’s Overview, giving an idea of how people came across your site. You can drill into this in more detail through All Traffic and then Channels:

Google Analytics Bascics - Channels Tab - Browser Media

You can see the main sources of traffic to your site here, so in this case, organic search is the top source. As well as visitor numbers, those engagement metrics are there, and so if you see one channel standing out in particular (like, maybe Email has a high bounce rate) you can scrutinise this further and decide to refresh your email marketing.

The Adwords tab is relevant if you’ve got your Adwords and Analytics profiles linked. Search Engine Optimization is hooked up to Search Console (previously Webmaster Tools) and the Social tab measures the impact and effectiveness of your social media activity. For metrics around specific email campaigns, the Campaign tab is for you.


As you’d expect, this is where you can really start to get into how visitors are engaging with your site. After the Overview, we have Behaviour Flow – a visual representation of the path your visitors used when they moved around your site – and then Site Content.

Google Analytics Bascics - All Pages Tab - Browser Media

In All Pages you can look at exactly that: All the pages of your site that have received a visit within the timeframe stated in the top right corner. As well as the number of pageviews, you’ll see unique pageviews, average time on page, entrances, bounce rate, how often users exit a page and (if you’ve assigned a value), how much those pageviews are worth.

The Pageviews report helps further establish just how much traffic your site actually receives (as does your session numbers in Audience) and where it is receiving it – very useful if you’re running a campaign to drive traffic to a specific page. Landing Pages does the same, but – as the name suggests – these are the pages people land on first rather than navigate to.

The Content Drilldown tab is great if you’re using subfolders such as It allows you to see the top folders and the top content within those folders in terms of visits and engagement. Lastly, the Exit Pages report shows which pages people are leaving your site from.

Next steps

In standard reports, you’re viewing all website data. Good as a starting point, but it’d be far more useful if you start segmenting traffic so you can hone-in on a particular type of visitor. Utilising Google Analytics to its full potential gets pretty complicated pretty quickly, and so Google’s advice for using Advanced Segments is a good shout.

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